Dallas Till, a veteran physical education teacher and coach at Riverside-Brookfield High School, has been put on paid administrative leave after school officials learned that he is being sued by a former student and girls basketball player at Elmwood Park High School, alleging that Till had a sexual relationship with her while she was in high school.
The former student, who is now 33 years old, claims in the civil lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court that Till impregnated her in 2008 when she was 18 years old and then convinced her to get an abortion. After the abortion, the complaint alleges, Till dumped her and ended the relationship. The former student is identified in the suit as Jane Doe.
Although the lawsuit was filed on June 21, 2021, RBHS officials only learned of it in early July when the school received a subpoena from the plaintiff’s lawyers. RBHS Superintendent Kevin Skinkis had the school’s attorney review the lawsuit and brief the school board. After that Till was quickly placed on administrative leave and the school hired a teacher to fill in for him this year.
“That’s kind of where we’re at right now. Dallas Till is on leave and the rest is a personnel matter,” Skinkis told the Landmark in a telephone interview.
Till was hired by RBHS in 2009 almost one year after his alleged relationship with the student ended. The RBHS school board voted 4-3 to hire him at a meeting on May 5, 2009. That was the meeting that then newly elected school board members Mike Welch, who is again on the RBHS school board, Matt Sinde and Dan Moon were sworn in.
Welch, Sinde and Moon, who had run as a team for the school board, all voted against hiring Till, largely because he was an expensive lateral hire with a master’s degree plus 45 hours salary lane. He was also credited for eight years of experience at Elmwood Park High School.
“The circumstances of a proposed new hire did not make sense to many,” Welch wrote in a text message to the Landmark. “The proposed new hire was to leave a tenured position and come to RB at the top of the pay scale. I questioned the high level of pay and why the individual would leave a tenured position. Since the RB administration [in 2009] provided little explanation, I voted no.”
Welch, Sinde and Moon told the Landmark that they had no idea that Till had been accused of inappropriate behavior at Elmwood Park.
Voting to hire Till was Jim Marciniak, who had been elected school board president earlier in the meeting with the support of Sinde, Welch and Moon, and board members Larry Herbst, Sue Kleinmeyer and MariAnn Leibrandt.
Leibrandt told the Landmark she didn’t recall much about the vote.
“The only thing I remember about Dallas Till is that I believe he was coming from Elmwood Park,” Leibrandt said. “That’s all I really know.”
Marciniak, Herbst and Kleinmeyer did not respond to requests for comment about the decision to hire Till.
Jack Baldermann, who was about to leave RBHS, had the dual title of superintendent/principal at the time Till was hired. Baldermann, who is now the principal of Westmont High School, did not respond to multiple phone calls and an email from the Landmark.
Art Ostrow, who is now the athletic director at Hinsdale South High School, was the chairman of the Wellness Department of RBHS in 2009. Ostrow also did not respond to multiple phone calls and an email from the Landmark.
Then athletic director and football coach Otto Zeman told the Landmark that he did not play a role in hiring Till.
“I really kind of met him when he got here,” Zeman said.
Former RBHS business manager Christopher Welton recalled that Till’s coaching ability was a factor in him being recommended by the administration.
The lawsuit alleges that Till’s relationship with the student was widely known at Elmwood Park High School at the time.
Till was an assistant football coach at RBHS before he was hired to be varsity girls basketball coach in 2011. Till also was named varsity baseball coach in 2010.
Till coached the girls basketball team at RBHS for 10 seasons until he stepped down before the 2021-22 season, after the lawsuit against him was filed, but before RBHS officials knew about it.
After 12 years as varsity baseball coach, Till officially resigned his position last week, but Till was not on the list of coaching stipends approved by the school board at their July 12 meeting after they had learned of the lawsuit.
“When I saw the allegations, we determined that a leave of absence was the best course of action until Till has an opportunity to work through this situation and defend himself,” Skinkis said. “I think this is going to be a long process, which is why we hired a one-year only teacher to cover PE this year. We posted the baseball job so we’re assuming that Mr. Till is going to need to focus on this matter.”
Till salary for the current school year is $93,689.
Skinkis said the school has received no complaints about Till’s behavior at RBHS.
“There are no records of concern with the employee while at Riverside-Brookfield High School,” Skinkis said in an email. “The district completed the required background checks when the employee was hired in 2009.”
Skinkis didn’t directly answer whether RBHS has conducted an internal investigation of Till’s interactions with students at RBHS.
“This is a personnel matter so I cannot go into specifics about what steps we’ve taken or will be taking,” Skinkis said.
Till did not return a phone call from the Landmark seeking comment. Till’s lawyer, Roy McCampbell, told the Landmark he didn’t want to comment on a pending case.
Both McCampbell and attorneys for Elmwood Park Community School District 401 have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Karen O’Malley has yet to rule on those motions, but on Sept. 27, O’Malley ordered Till to respond to written questions from the plaintiff’s lawyers and to produce certain documents by Oct. 3.
The 19-page complaint alleges that Till began “grooming” Doe from the time she was a freshman at Elmwood Park High School and that his behavior was so overt and obvious that numerous people at Elmwood Park High School knew about it, but no one did anything significant to stop it.
The complaint alleges that Till took a special interest in Doe, who was a basketball player, when she was a freshman and met her in the mornings before school for individual training sessions. The complaint says that Doe was vulnerable because her parents had separated, and she had just moved into her father’s house after having a strained relationship with her mother.
The lawsuit alleges that during the summer of 2005, before Doe’s sophomore year, Till “began sending her text messages telling her that he ‘loved’ her, a sentiment that the impressionable and troubled Doe reciprocated.”
“Till and Doe developed pet names for each other,” the lawsuit alleges. “Till became ‘home fry’ and ‘Big Brother’ and he referred to Doe as ‘small fry.’”
After the summer girls basketball camp ended the complaint alleges that Till and Doe would meet three to four days a week to run and lift weights together. Once, the suit alleges, they were doing sit ups together when Till allegedly told Doe, “So this is what it feels like lying next to you.” The complaint alleges that other students working out nearby heard the comment.
During her sophomore year Doe tried to run away from home. Till allegedly interceded and allowed Doe to stay for a time in the guest bedroom at his home. At the time Till was married to a woman who also coached Doe in a sport at Elmwood Park High School.
After Doe left Till’s home, the suit alleges Till’s wife became concerned about the time that Till was spending with Doe, forbade him from texting or calling her and told him to stop working out with Doe in the mornings before school.
Till and his wife eventually separated, and the lawsuit alleges that Till’s relationship accelerated during Doe’s junior year, when she was 17 years old. The lawsuit alleges that rumors swirled around Elmwood Park High School that Till had been grooming and illicitly involved with other Elmwood Park High School students.
A few months after Till’s wife moved out, the relationship between Till and Doe allegedly started becoming physical. By the spring of Doe’s junior year, the complaint alleges, Till and Doe began having frequent intercourse.
That spring an Elmwood Park teacher allegedly saw Doe texting in class, confiscated her cellphone and saw that she had been texting with Till. The teacher allegedly turned the phone over to Till’s wife, a teacher at the school.
The suit alleges that neither Till’s wife nor the teacher reported the communication between Till and Doe to the police or other authorities.
In addition, the suit alleges Till often took Doe to hotel rooms for trysts, and that during the summer before her senior year Doe moved into Till’s home even though she was still a minor. Another Elmwood Park teacher lived in the home, but allegedly did not report that Till and Doe were having sex to authorities.
In the fall of Doe’s senior year, according to the lawsuit, some Elmwood Park High School cheerleaders posted on a public Internet “roasting” forum that Till was engaging in sexual activity with Elmwood Park High School students. The then-principal of Elmwood Park High School allegedly saw the post and emailed the website asking that the post about Till be taken down, but the principal never reported Till’s alleged behavior to authorities, according to the lawsuit.
Doe dropped out of high school in February of her senior year, apparently after the basketball season ended, but her relationship with Till, the suit alleges, continued through the summer. That’s when, according to the complaint, Doe discovered that she was pregnant with Till’s child.
“Till was terrified that others would find out about his conduct towards Doe and manipulated her with guilt to keep quiet, telling her repeatedly that if anyone found out about what he had done to her, and if he ever went to jail for it, he would commit suicide,” the complaint states.
The suit alleges that Till convinced Doe to get an abortion and then abandoned her after she got the abortion.
The lawsuit accuses Till of negligence and sexual battery and asks for damages in excess of $50,000 for each count. Elmwood Park Community Unit School District 401 is accused of three counts including willful and wanton negligence, negligent supervision of Till, and negligent retention of Till. Riverside-Brookfield High School is not named in the lawsuit.
“Students observed and commented on the apparent closeness of the relationship between Till and Doe,” the complaint states. “This closeness was so open and obvious that EPHS teachers and staff could not help but notice it as well,” the complaint states.
Neither Elmwood Park Community School District 401 Superintendent Leah Gauthier nor the district’s attorney responded to request for comment from the Landmark.
Doe’s lawyers said that they are confident in their case.
“We’re going to prove our allegations in the complaint,” said attorney Steven Shonder, who, along with attorney Peter Stamatis, is representing Doe.
Skinkis and school board President Deanna Zalas, and at least two other RBHS school board members, have read the complaint.
For now, Till is on paid leave indefinitely.